Dylan Foley, 2010
Dylan Foley is a freelance writer and a book columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger. He interviewed me by telephone in May 2010.
Dylan Foley: Where does your title, The Awakener, come from?
Helen Weaver: When Jack lived with me, I couldn’t get enough sleep. That was the silly meaning of the title. Later, I had a feeling that Jack woke a whole lot of people up with his writing, for the 1950s had been such a sleepy time.
There was also the Buddhist connection. The word “buddha” literally means “awakened one.” Jack was very important in creating interest in Buddhism in the United States.
Dylan Foley: Could you describe the chaotic nature of your three-month relationship with Kerouac?
Helen Weaver: Jack was a mass of contradictions. He really was a sweet, sensitive person, but he was an alcoholic. I wouldn’t say he was an angry drunk . . . he got really depressed when he drank. My roommate was not working, so she and Jack could stay up late, and I had to get up to go to my 9-to-5 job. It was very stressful.
Dylan Foley: Could you describe the hair-pulling incident?
Helen Weaver: Jack came over very late with his friend Lucien Carr. I don’t do well when people interrupt my sleep. I just completely lost it. Apparently, I pulled out a chunk of Jack’s hair. He said that was the beginning of the end of his looks. He said he had to wear a hat after that. I was quite flattered, though, that Lucien started calling me “Slugger.”
Dylan Foley: You were involved in the campaign to fight the censorship of the comedian Lenny Bruce, then you had a sexual encounter with him. What happened afterward?
Helen Weaver: The most important thing that happened after I had sex with Lenny Bruce was when I walked into my analyst’s office the next day. I told this father-figure analyst that I had had sex with Lenny, and he asked, “How was it?” It doesn’t sound like much, but it was an amazing event in my life. I was pretty uptight, but that was the beginning of my sexual revolution.
Dylan Foley: After working in publishing for years, you went on to have a brilliant career as a translator. How do you look back at the 25-year-old Helen Weaver?
Helen Weaver: I wouldn’t want to be her again. If nostalgia means you’d rather be back in the past, then I don’t have nostalgia.
I salute her, and I thank her for taking all those great notes of the 1950s. She was braver than I am today. I admire her for being open to new experiences, but I don’t envy her at all. I’d rather be where I am today as a 78-year-old woman. I am much happier today.